Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suspension Or 2.0

As some of you may know (but most probably don't), I've been hired by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Given the conflicts of interest that would present as a blogger, I'm either going to take the blog to suspension or unveil Avenging Archangel 2.0. My conflicts as a HRT employee:

1. Obvious on mass transit writing.

2. Legally, HRT is a corporation held one-seventh by each member city. To blog on local politics would be talking about my employer.

3. HRT has a seat on the TPO.

My duties will begin with light rail launch in the morning, which is why I set this to autopost Thursday evening.

2.0 would be for me to fade into the background, chipping in a post where I can, while giving the front seat to my best friends in the African-American community leadership. I e-mailed them over the weekend, seeking at least two additional posters. (A single poster would always be compared and contrasted with me.) This established platform would continue to advocate for an inclusive Virginia Beach, having a given readership base to build on. I'm not holding my breath on it, as I made similar recruitment pitches in the wake of each of Andrew Jackson's campaigns for the Virginia Beach City Council.

I've been hired to be a Data Collector at HRT, doing manual passenger counts on The Tide. Under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, manual counts are mandated during the first year of revenue service. (In addition, there are automated systems just inside the train doors.) Everyone at HRT is cognisant of the fact that there has been much speculation about how many will ride The Tide. Having completed my training, let me make it clear to everyone: given the methodology and redundancies in the system, it would be virtually impossible to fudge The Tide ridership numbers. The FTA will be watching, and - given the history of the project - will certainly check it anything appears off.

There have been talks between HRT executives and I over the past few months about me possibly joining the team. They began recruiting me once they learned that my previous place of employment was probably going to close. As HRT needed to add dependable additional staff for light rail launch, it was fairly obvious where to put me. In the interim, I put one project for this blog on ice: a political satire series. On the 13th of each month, I was going to chronicle the Really Evil Taxpayers Against Rational Decisions (RETARD). In fact, in my desk I have a scratch sheet with topics for nine installments of the RETARDs.

It's been a fun run. I had been considering blogging for months, but was finally pushed when no one covered a citizens meeting held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. My one failure was never attracting additional posters, as I never intended to do this all alone indefinitely. While the number of hits on this site has been relatively low, the point is who reads this blog. I've had a virtual who's who cite it back to me. It's been a niche blog, providing information and insights you can't find anywhere else on the Internet.

For we grassroots inclusionists, both status quoers and the extremist VBTA present serious problems. Those of the status quo are usually more subtle. However, I hope others continue to speak out loudly about what the VBTA's sinister agenda really means for Virginia Beach.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to invite you to come ride light rail on launch weekend - and to become repeat customers. Given that the lion's share of my initial duties will be onboard the trains themselves, part of my training had me out riding The Tide. It has the Wow Factor. The bulk of my fellow Data Collectors aren't mass transit advocates, but simply people looking for good work. However, when we rode as part of our training, they were pulling out their smartphones to take video and photos of the run. They were moved.

It may not be over for me, with either a limited role under 2.0 or coming back full bore here later. (Remember that my initial position with HRT sunsets after one year.) In the meantime, I hope I get interest from others to launch 2.0. Regardless, I plan to keep this blog up, allowing it to serve as an archive of past events. Nakemiin.

Friday, August 12, 2011


In the previous poll question, I asked you all to estimate Tide ridership on Saturday, August 20. That would be the second day of light rail revenue service here. 27% each voted for 4,900 or more, 4,100 - 4,899, and 3,300 - 4,099. 18% chose 2,500 - 3,299, while no one expected less than that.

With a deal to build a headquarters hotel for the Virginia Beach Convention Center reportedly imminent, I'll ask about public support for the City of Virginia Beach entering a public-private venture (PPV) to complete such a project.

McLain Case Hits The Courtroom

This morning the case of Michael McLain was taken up in Virginia Beach District Court, Criminal Courtroom 2, but only briefly. Lawyers from both sides appeared, the Commonwealth filed a motion, and a next date for the case was set. It will be back in District Court on October 7. McLain is charged in the May 27 murder of Tyler Lynn-Gainous. McLain himself never entered the courtroom today.

I made the trip down to the Courthouse this morning. When Michael's mother saw me, she made a few over-the-top comments about my being present. (Last time I checked, trials of adults in this country were public.) However, I shouldn't personalize it, as she's obviously distraught over her son's predicament.

For Tyler's out-of-area family and friends, District Court proceedings in Virginia are conducted with the lawyers, defendant, witnesses, et al standing at the judge's bench. Therefore, it's difficult to hear elsewhere in the courtroom. I think I heard what was being said, but don't want to run with it as a story without being sure. I called the Clerk's office this afternoon, they provided the next court date, but didn't have a scanned copy of the motion. As I know a number of you are depending on me for information, I'll try to verify it early next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There's A Stench In The Pasture

John Moss did a television interview with WAVY on the pending deal to to build a convention center headquarters hotel in Virginia Beach. On the Republican Party of Virginia Beach's (RPVB) Facebook page, Moss claims his opposition to such an agreement is based on it being in violation of the Republican Creed.

Of course, Moss served for years as Chairman of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). The tiny breakfast cult is dominated by members of The Laughingstock Party-er, Tidewater Libertarian Party (TLP).

That begs the obvious question for Council candidate Moss: if he is so concerned about Republican principles, why didn't he spend the last decade working within the RPVB rather than being figurehead for a clique of faux Libertarians?

2011 Redistricting So Far

The Virginia Beach City Council is scheduled to approve a new seven district map for City Council and School Board on August 23. Given what happened at this past Tuesday night's Public Hearing before Council, it's likely to be a map we haven't even seen yet. At this time, I'd like to take a look at issues and events from the process so far.

The first of the meetings was at Green Run High School in June. At that time the City Attorney's Office strongly discouraged any plans other than seven district plans. While other proposals would be accepted, the City wanted to avoid anything that would require a City Charter change. So far we've seen nothing but seven district plans, which might be choking outside of the box thinking.

Another point is the failure to look at alternative voting systems. The debate has pivoted on two questions: how to draw the seven districts, and whether the seven district members should be elected solely within their districts. At the third meeting, I raised the possibility of cumulative voting. It would aid minority representation, while not triggering any of the publicly-stated arguments against a ward system.

Prior to the Chris Felton Plan being submitted on Monday, the source of every plan had been either the Council Liaisons or the NAACP. NAACP1 was the civil rights group's original submission, with NAACP2 drawn to meet objections raised by a quartet of Councilpersons. Those same Councilpersons then drafted another plan, which was sent to the NAACP in search of an endorsement. The "compromise of a compromise" was so watered down from the original intent that no blessing was forthcoming. It has never been officially filed, so it doesn't appear on the Redistricting website.

There is the issue of which should be the minority-majority district, Centerville or Rose Hall? While the Council Liaison plans have been based on Centerville, the NAACP plans are based on Rose Hall. The problem with Centerville is the unstable Asian-American concentrations in the southwest. The stunning difference I saw in first looking at the 2010 Census numbers was the change in the Asian-American concentration map from the 2000 Census. While you could draw Centerville as a minority-majority district today, it is highly questionable as to whether that status could be maintained in subsequent redistrictings. In sharp contrast, the minority numbers in Green Run are sustainable, so Rose Hall should become the minority-majority district in a seven district plan.

The root of many comments during the public meetings so far has been The Northwest Crescent, the Beach's densest minority concentration. It runs roughly from the northwest corner of the Virginia Beach Boulevard/Witchduck Road intersection to the Campus East and Burton Station areas. Along the way it takes in Lake Edward, with decent numbers in the periphery at Cypress Point. From a standpoint of minority representation, that concentration needs to be kept intact on one side of the Bayside - Kempsville line or the other. That forces a curved district line that inevitably will put a neighborhood into a district that a layman would think doesn't make sense. When you also consider the policy implications, it makes more sense to put the concentration in Kempsville District. That gives Vice Mayor Louis Jones the Central Business District. Therefore, you loop the line northward in the west, then dip it southward in the east. That puts parts of historic Kempsville into Bayside District, which has led to some civic league complaints. However, failure to get that line correct would be an obvious red flag when an approved plan is sent to the Justice Department for preclearance.

While I drew 2 of the 7 plans in 2001, I haven't taken a shot this time. The efforts of my good friends in the African-American community leadership were so far ahead that I didn't want to do anything that might undercut them. I've done backseat support for their efforts.

You knew I couldn't resist a chance to attack the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), didn't you? While the VBTA has always given lip service towards a ward system, the only VBTAer at any of the five public meetings has been previous Chairman John Moss. At the third meeting he endorsed the NAACP's position as an individual. Then, it's probably better for the cause that the village idiots don't invade the Council Chambers.

A largely status quo plan will almost certainly be adopted on August 23. The two baseline needs are keeping The Northwest Crescent intact and drawing Rose Hall District as a minority-majority district.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The City Responds

In my home neighborhood, we've had problems with overflow parking from Knuckleheads Roadhouse (410 N. Witchduck Road). Nice establishment, but on very busy nights, their customers will park on Weaver Drive. Weaver has had no on-street parking since I moved to the neighborhood in 2003. The problem is that the minimal signage probably isn't clear to most bar patrons. Weaver is a narrow, curvy street that is the only access road for two apartment complexes.

After some e-mail traffic, I'm happy to report that the crown jewel to solving our problem is in the pipes. About lunchtime yesterday I received an e-mail from the Mayor's Office informing me that improved "No Parking" signage for Weaver Drive will be installed "in 3-4 weeks". There will be a large "No Parking" sign on each side of Weaver near the entrance, making it clear that there's no on-street parking. (If bar patrons still try to, it would make it much easier for 3rd Precinct to enforce.)

A long term component is probably to punch a second entrance in, either through the backdoor to Northridge, or out to Witchduck (adjacent to Ebbets Plaza.) However, with roads funds scarce, I'm not about to hold my breath on that one.

To look at the big picture here, the lesson to be learned is that you can get things done working the system. You simply need to address your issue in a detailed manner to the right people, being clear and concise in explaining the problem and your position.

Update (August 17): I noticed this afternoon that the new signage is up, early at that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

City Council Goal Setting Workshop

Today the Virginia Beach City Council held a one day Goal Setting Workshop. The 6 1/2 hour meeting was in the Department of Economic Development (DED) Board Room at Town Center.


Each Councilperson had a prior telephone interview with Facilitator Lyle Sumek. The following issues were brought up in those interviews by at least two Councilpersons:

1. SPSA and Landfill

2. Schools and Funding

3. Process Improvement

4. Pleasure House Point

5. Revenues: Direction for FY 2013

6. Use of Sponsorships

7. State Revenues to the City: Direction

8. Outsourcing: Recreation Centers, Others

9. Dredging/Spoils

10. SGA: Direction

11. Form-Based Code

12. TMDL

13. Williams Center

14. Convention Center Headquarters Hotel

15. Dome site

16. Sand/Beach Replenishment

17. Gambling/Video Gaming

18. City Redistricting

19. Legislative Agenda: Topics

20. Work Session: Discussion Time

21. Confidentiality of Closed Sessions

22. Burton Station

23. Bike/Trail Plan

24. TOD: Direction


Things restarted after the lunch break with SGA Office Manager Barry Frankenfield giving a status report on our SGAs. He covered the planned identity for each SGA, the proposed infrastructure projects in them, schedules for upcoming plans, etc.

The Rosemont SGA plan is due to be approved by Council September 13. The final three are scheduled for 2012: Lynnhaven (March), Hilltop (June), and Centerville (December).

For those screaming that this is an attempt to totally redo the city, City Manager Jim Spore pointed out that the SGAs comprise less than 2% of Virginia Beach's land area. 98% would remain as is.

Implementation strategy was questioned. Policy has been to slowly work each SGA that has a plan, as we don't know where a potential private investor may want to redevelop. Louis Jones has long wanted to target 2-3 with our finite resources, and he was joined by Prescott Sherrod.

In addition, consensus now wants to designate Princess Anne Commons a SGA. That is to target resources to the area, hoping we can have quality spinoff development from the new Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.

FY 2013

Fiscal policy is always a discussion point, especially in this recession. It is projected that property assessments will be down 5% in 2012. That would mean a loss of $20 million in Property Tax revenue for the City, on top of the already-expected Budget shortfall for FY 2013 of $50 million. (Big, but we've had worse in recent memory.)

Vice Mayor Louis Jones cautioned against slash and burn, warning we could induce our own local economic problems, and he was echoed by Councilman Glenn Davis. Bob Dyer took the middle ground, stating we'd have to tweak and reprioritize. It was pointed out that bond houses base our rating not only on debt load, but what we're doing on economic development in order that we have future debt service capacity. Jim Spore noted Property Tax revenue has been down about $190 million over the past few years, but we've weathered the storm - in part - due to revenue from investments made in the recent past.

Foreclosures have accounted for 27% of home sales in Virginia Beach during the past year.


Give Councilman Bill DeSteph enough time to talk and he'll say something stupid. Today was no exception.

First, under discussion of our City debt situation, he started citing statistics from our Federal debt standing. As if Council was responsible for Federal debt. (Hey, he thinks we do New York City land use....)

Second, he not only wants to revoke the May increase of our City's self-imposed debt ceiling, but wants to lower it below the previous figure.

Third, Mayor Will Sessoms spoke of how road construction can be good for the local economy. We not only get new roads out of it, but it creates jobs for locals. DeSteph retorted there was no latter benefit if the international students who come to work here build the roads. Councilman John Uhrin pointed out he'd never heard of the students building roads here.

Fourth, DeSteph wants to cut economic development initiatives based on the recession. I was incredulous: DeSteph's position boils down to the notion that we're so bad off economically that we should stop trying to create new jobs!

Fifth, he brought up City debt again under Governance, which was out of order. He said he was going to keep talking about it even if no one on Council backed him on it. (Yeah, the other ten all know he's out there.)


The Council Liaisons on the issue (Glenn Davis & Louis Jones) claimed that they had a plan (presumably 2C) that would make everyone who has spoken happy.

When I got home, I had to e-mail my good NAACP friends ASAP to let them know what a bunch of happy campers we're suppose to be. First, 2C makes Centerville District minority-majority, while NAACP1 makes Rose Hall District minority-majority. Second, anyone who knows both the Census numbers and civil rights law grasps that Council offering 2C as a reasonable alternative to NAACP1 is disingenuous at best. Third, NAACP1 has two additional districts that are influence districts.

It's disgusting, but the Virginia Beach City Council rejecting inclusion was virtually a foregone conclusion. I plan a post sometime August 10-18 to cover the process more in depth. (That's why I refrained from covering Redistricting in Random Thoughts August 4, 2011, as I already had the post in the pipes.)


Things wouldn't be fun unless I threw out a couple nuggets for my favorite whipping boys, the extremist VBTA, to choke on.

First, the percentage of income that the average citizen pays to local government in taxes and fees today is at the same level as 1958.

I can hear the knuckle-draggers yelling, "Where did that come from?!?" MoveOn? Organizing for America? No, it's actually from a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Second, City of Virginia Beach revenue in 2011 is at 2007 levels, with a dip (see: Assessments) expected in 2012. Next time they claim we're on a spending binge....


1. Council decided not to include video poker authorization in the 2012 Community Legislative Package. It was noted that what gambling bills that passed the General Assembly in 2011 were all about raising the penalties for illegal gambling, so video poker legislation wouldn't have a snowball's chance in Richmond.

2. The new animal shelter is ahead of schedule. Due to open in January, it may be ready in December.

3. The number of applications for services from the Department of Human Services has doubled in the past five years.

4. The City will look at outsourcing our recreation centers, as it did with municipal golf courses and Sportsplex. However, a couple Councilmen had reservations about the idea.

5. The proposed bike trail in the periphery of the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way has been on hold pending completion of the Alternatives Analysis of the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study. The issue is that LRT and BRT require different widths, so it can't be engineered as such until a transit mode is chosen.

Rather than the initial talk of acquiring additional land where the ROW is too narrow, the preferred option now is to look at diverting the bikes to parallel neighborhood streets in such areas.

6. Michael Jenkins' option on redeveloping the Dome site expires September 30. He either needs everything square by then, or to request another extension from the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA).

7. The Virginia Aquarium Area Plan is scheduled to go to Council on November 8.

8. Two additional Councilmen expressed opposition to the proposed tent city for the homeless.

9. The best joke of the day was by Jim Wood. When Council discussed selling tasteful sponsorships for City facilities and events, Wood suggested "Kellam High School, brought to you by Towne Bank".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Communists Endorse Obama Reelection

In last week's edition of People's Weekly World, Communist Party USA (CPUSA) endorsed the reelection of Barack Obama as President in 2012. While Chairman Sam Webb noted that the CPUSA would like to see an united third party on the left, and has differences with Obama on both foreign and domestic policy, they also note that there are differences between Republicans and Democrats.

H/T Conservative Byte

68% Look Favorably On Interracial Marraige

68% of you, more than two-thirds of voters, look favorably on interracial marriages. For the 31% unfavorable, wake up and smell the 21st Century! Such arcane beliefs belong in the landfill of history.

As a Catholic bachelor in this area, I long thought I'd end up married to a pinay. Between having lived in an 85% African-American neighborhood for over eight years, and utilizing a mass transit system where ridership is about 75% African-American, it's African-American women who now dominate my personal life.

The new poll question: estimate ridership of The Tide on August 20. Launch day is August 19, which is a Friday. Being a weekday, that should dampen crowds. The following day is a Saturday, service will be fare-free, and people will want to see it for the first time. What's your guess on ridership? (2,900 is the average weekday benchmark.)

Random Thoughts August 4, 2011

1. The City of Norfolk has a Department of Parks & Urban Forestry. Isn't "Urban Forestry" an oxymoron?

2. When will the agreement on an entertainment complex for the Dome site be completed? We've been on the cusp of closing the deal for months.

3. Who files at the 11th hour for this November's Virginia Beach City Council special election should be interesting. When perennial candidate John Moss first announced, I couldn't have imagined he'd be in a position to still be taken seriously at this point.

4. Meyera Oberndorf is being recruited by the Demonrats to run for the 7th Senate District seat this November. Anyone who has worked a General Assembly race before (and I've done a few) knows standing up a credible campaign just 90 days out from Election Day is virtually impossible.

Therefore, the only rational reason I can see for her running is to boost voter turnout on the west side of Virginia Beach (7th District), which would help a status quo Council candidate but hurt John Moss.

5. My best wishes to the new Republic of South Sudan. Now if they would change the country name to disassociate themselves from the thugs who rule in Khartoum. Maybe a beautiful name in one of the indigenous languages.

6. With zero units constructed through Virginia Beach's Workforce Housing Program, how long until the City takes more forceful measures to get the units built?

7. With Southwest Airlines buying AirTran, and closing their Newport News station next Spring, what - if any - of the Newport News AirTran flights become Norfolk Southwest flights? Conventional wisdom is that Atlanta service is a given, but do we also get Boston and New York - LaGuardia?

8. In his latest blog post, even Bob O'Connor had to admit that Virginia Beach light rail is inevitable. How long before other Kool-Aid chuggers catch on, and end their futile resistance?

9. How much longer can the European Union keep putting out national financial crisis after national financial crisis in the euro zone?

10. Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement (HRCCE) Executive Director (and former City of Virginia Beach staffer) Betsy McBride has moved back to her native Idaho. That led a mid-level City staffer to joke about potato farming. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has quipped about that.

11. What has the Hampton Roads Partnership been doing since the Declaration of Interdependence?

12. Sweating our way through this Summer, only a Flat Earther could continue to deny climate change.

13. The teahadists burned any credibility they had in opposing the raising of the Federal debt ceiling. If they had taken time to notice, everyone in the mainstream knew it was necessary, with the arguments being over what conditions to attach to it. The tea baggers would have triggered a second Great Depression with a Federal debt default.

14. Speaking of such, in a comment on the blog Bearing Drift, Reid Greenmun called raising the Federal debt ceiling "insane". If the Chairman of the extremist VBTA wants to see what is actually insane, all he has to do is look in the mirror.

15. Suffolk has yet to decide on a final proposed option on how to replace Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) bus service come January 1. Stay tuned, as this one could get entertaining before it's over. (Entertaining, unless you're a Suffolk bus rider.)

16. The jockeying is on over the vacant Chief Communications Officer's position at HRT, with its $100k+ annual salary. Two applicants have already spoke to me about the job.

17. In picking up sports from the British, why did cricket have to eclipse soccer in India? With the country having as large a population (read: talent base) as it does, it could have had a great men's national soccer team. (In Asia, even friggin' North Korea has a much better team.)

18. So far, picking a candidate to support in the Republican Presidential field is a case of choosing the lesser of evils. (Yes, I still wish Mike Huckabee was running.)

19. Since the Chilean miners rescue, it seems like the only big story out of South America has been the health of Venezuelan President Huge Chavez. Damn quiet. Then, is quiet preferable?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Calling The Fringe Right's Big Lie

You get the usual garbage from the fringe right: mass transit is a waste of money, we should do roads only, etc.

Let me put the issue in perspective: if you took every non-light rail cent of government money in HRT's FY 2011 Budget and plowed it into roads instead, it wouldn't be enough to build two lane miles of interstate. Fact.

On the other hand, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) moves over 50,000 people every weekday with that money. So you decide: which is the more cost-effective option? It's pretty simple.

Obama Message To His Supporters On The Debt Deal

This is the video message from President Obama to his supporters on the Federal debt deal.

Note that he never mentions what happens if the committee doesn't agree on a second round of cuts.